Dr. Onkar Ghate is a senior fellow and the Chief Content Officer at the Ayn Rand Institute. He has written and lectured extensively on philosophy and serves as Dean for the Institute’s Objectivist Academic Center in Irvine, CA. The Undercurrent’s Jon Glatfelter had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Ghate regarding the recent shooting at the “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, as well as religion and free speech more broadly.
The Undercurrent: Many of the major U.S. media players, including CNN and FOX, still have not published the cartoon contest’s winning piece. Why do you think that is?
Dr. Ghate: I haven’t kept tabs on which outlets have and have not published that cartoon, but there were similar responses in regard to the Charlie Hebdo cartoons and, before that, the Danish cartoons in 2005-2006. Sometimes a media outlet would try to explain why it is not showing its audience a crucial element of the news story, and I think these explanations have revealed a mixture of motives at work.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list: fear, cowardice, appeasement, sympathy. Let me say a word on each. Some media outlets are afraid of violent reprisals and of the ongoing security costs that would be necessary to protect staff. And because the U.S. government refuses to take an unequivocal stand in defense of the right to free speech, the totalitarians are emboldened, which makes violent reprisals more likely. So that’s one reason. But despite this legitimate fear, I do think there is often an element of cowardice. The likelihood of an attack can be overstated, and of course if more news outlets publish the cartoons, it is more and more difficult to intimidate and attack them all, and less and less likely that a particular organization will be singled out. Here there is strength in numbers. A third motive is the appeaser’s false hope that if he gives in and doesn’t publish the cartoons, he will have satisfied the attackers and no further threats or demands will follow. Finally, many are sympathetic: out of deference to the non-rational, faith-based emotions of Muslims, they don’t publish the cartoons, even though those cartoons are news. They view the cartoonists and publishers as the troublemakers and villains. (The roots of this sympathy I think are complex and often ugly.)
The Undercurrent: Some have condemned the contest’s organizer, Pamela Geller, and the winning artist, Bosch Fawstin. They say there’s a world of difference between good-natured free expression and malicious speech intended solely to antagonize. What do you think?
Dr. Ghate: I disagree with many things that I’ve heard Pamela Gellar say but I refuse to discuss her real or alleged flaws when totalitarians are trying to kill her, as though those flaws, even if real, justify or mitigate the actions of the aspiring killers. The New York Times editorial to which you link is a disgrace. After a sanctimonious paragraph saying that we all have the right to publish offensive material and that no matter how offensive that material may be, it does not justify murder, the rest of the editorial goes on to criticize the victim of attempted murder. As my colleague and others have noted, this is like denouncing a rape victim instead of her rapists.
And notice what the editorial glosses over: in the first paragraph stating that offensive material does not justify murder, it concludes with the seemingly innocuous point that “it is incumbent on leaders of all religious faiths to make this clear to their followers.”
This is the actual issue. Why don’t you similarly have to tell a group of biochemists or historians, when they disagree about a theory, that their disagreements don’t justify murdering each other? The answers lies in the difference between reason and faith, as I’m sure we’ll discuss, a difference the editorial dares not discuss.
But contra the editorial, the Garland event had a serious purpose. Look at the winning cartoon: it makes a serious point.
Fawstin, therefore, is guilty by association with a “right-wing” organization.
Apparently, CBLDF only defends speech they agree with — and not freedom of speech on principle. The latter which is best expressed by a quote from Beatrice Evelyn Hall’s line attributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Unless you are the so-called Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
Marva Collins, a former substitute teacher whose success at educating poor black students in a private school she founded made her a candidate for secretary of education and the subject of a television movie, died on Wednesday in a hospice near her home in South Carolina. She was 78. […] After working as a substitute teacher for 14 years in Chicago public schools, Ms. Collins cashed in her $5,000 in pension savings and opened Westside Preparatory School in 1975. The school originally operated in the basement of a local college and then, to be free of red tape (the same reason she said she had refused federal funds), in the second floor of her home.
She began with four students, including her daughter, charging $80 a month in tuition. Enrollment at the school, on Chicago’s South Side, grew to more than 200, in classes from prekindergarten through eighth grade. It remained in operation for more than 30 years.
Ms. Collins set high academic standards, emphasized discipline and promoted a nurturing environment. She taught phonics, the Socratic method and the classics and, she insisted, never expected her students to fail.
“Kids don’t fail,” she once said. “Teachers fail, school systems fail. The people who teach children that they are failures — they are the problem.”
At Westside Prep, she said in 2004 when she was awarded the National Humanities Medal, “there are no dropouts, no substitute teachers, and when teachers are absent, the students teach themselves.”
“We’re an anomaly in a world of negatives,” she added. “Our children are self-motivated, self-generating, self-propelled.”
An article about the school in 1977 in The Chicago Sun-Times attracted national attention, an interview on “60 Minutes” and the interest of filmmakers, who went on to produce “The Marva Collins Story,” a 1981 television movie on CBS with Cicely Tyson playing Ms. Collins and Morgan Freeman as her husband. […] As her stature as an educator grew, she began to train other teachers from around the country and published several books, including “ ‘Ordinary’ Children, Extraordinary Teachers” and “Marva Collins’ Way,” written with Civia Tamarkin. Speaking engagements followed.
In 1980, President-elect Ronald Reagan was said to be leaning toward choosing Ms. Collins for secretary of education, but she said she would reject the job if it were offered. By that time she had already turned down offers to run the public school systems in Chicago and Los Angeles. […]
She insisted that she never craved awards or publicity. All she wanted, she told The Island Packet, the local newspaper, in 2007, was “to be able to say I got an A-plus on the assignment God gave me.”
You can read some comments from past students at jetmag.com.
Capitalism Magazine contributor Ron Pisaturo has released a new book called “Masculine Power, Feminine Beauty: The Volitional, Objective Basis for Heterosexuality in Romantic Love and Marriage.”
According to the book description:
This book presents a theory of heterosexual romantic love. The book argues that heterosexuality enables romantic love in a way that integrates with all aspects of a man and woman, including masculine power and feminine beauty. Author Ronald Pisaturo identifies differences between men and women while recognizing the utmost intellectual ability, rationality, and resultant moral virtue possible in equal measure to each sex. He argues that sexual orientation is the result of volition in the same way that other values pertaining to romantic love are volitional: although we do not directly choose our sexual orientation, as we do not directly choose what personality traits will attract us, we do make more basic choices that cause our sexual orientation.
Pisaturo debunks the mainstream theories that “affirm” non-heterosexual orientations, and argues that objective cognition—in particular, the holding of concepts that clearly identify and emphasize sex-specific romantic values—requires that the concept of marriage refer only to man-woman relationships. Moreover, the proper role of government in marriage is as protector of individual rights—of the husband, wife, and their children—not as social engineer for the ‘public good’.
This book offers an objective alternative to the mysticism of religion and the subjectivism of much of modern philosophy, science, and culture.
An overarching theme of the book is that every individual should understand the personal, chosen values that are consistent with his own sexual orientation. The author offers, in good will, this challenge to all readers: “I can explain my sexual orientation. Can you explain yours?”
The book makes many arguments — some we are not sure we agree with — but it looks interesting enough that it deserves a read.
Today’s Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage is a great result, but based on dubious reasoning. It is undoubtedly a momentous occasion for gays and lesbians around the nation. In a comparatively short time, they have moved from being a widely despised minority whose intimate relationships were criminalized in many states, to full marriage equality around the country.
For gays and lesbians seeking the right to marry and for many of us who have supported their cause, the result in today’s case matters more than the reasoning. But the Court’s legal reasoning also deserves attention, both because it is important in its own right, and because it establishes a precedent for future cases. Unfortunately, much of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion is based on dubious and sometimes incoherent logic.
Gay rights advocates have advanced several different rationales for a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. In my view, the strongest is that laws banning same-sex marriage discriminate on the basis of sex, much like laws banning interracial marriage discriminate on the basis of race – a position defended in an amicus brief I coauthored with Prof. Andrew Koppelman. But some of the other rationales for a right to same-sex marriage are also plausible, particularly the theory that laws banning it engage in unconstitutional discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Unfortunately, Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion doesn’t clearly endorse any of the various arguments previously advanced for a right to same-sex marriage, even as it to some degree nods at all of them. The result is a far from satisfying majority opinion.
To Apple, Love Taylor
I write this to explain why I’ll be holding back my album, 1989, from the new streaming service, Apple Music. I feel this deserves an explanation because Apple has been and will continue to be one of my best partners in selling music and creating ways for me to connect with my fans. I respect the company and the truly ingenious minds that have created a legacy based on innovation and pushing the right boundaries.
I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.
This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows. This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt. This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, just like the innovators and creators at Apple are pioneering in their field…but will not get paid for a quarter of a year’s worth of plays on his or her songs.
These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child. These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much. We simply do not respect this particular call.
I realize that Apple is working towards a goal of paid streaming. I think that is beautiful progress. We know how astronomically successful Apple has been and we know that this incredible company has the money to pay artists, writers and producers for the 3 month trial period… even if it is free for the fans trying it out.
Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing. I say this with love, reverence, and admiration for everything else Apple has done. I hope that soon I can join them in the progression towards a streaming model that seems fair to those who create this music. I think this could be the platform that gets it right.
But I say to Apple with all due respect, it’s not too late to change this policy and change the minds of those in the music industry who will be deeply and gravely affected by this. We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.
Every Memorial Day, we pay tribute to the American men and women who have died in combat. With speeches and solemn ceremonies, we recognize their courage and valor. But one fact goes unacknowledged in our Memorial Day tributes: all too many of our soldiers have died unnecessarily–because they were sent to fight for a purpose other than America’s freedom.
The proper purpose of a government is to protect its citizens’ lives and freedom against the initiation of force by criminals at home and aggressors abroad. The American government has a sacred responsibility to recognize the individual value of every one of its citizens’ lives, and thus to do everything possible to protect the rights of each to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. This absolutely includes our soldiers.
Soldiers are not sacrificial objects; they are full-fledged Americans with the same moral right as the rest of us to the pursuit of their own goals, their own dreams, their own happiness. Rational soldiers enjoy much of the work of military service, take pride in their ability to do it superlatively, and gain profound satisfaction in protecting the freedom of every American, including their own freedom.
The book I return to is Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. My first daughter was named after its heroine, Dominique Francon.
This year’s Objectivist Summer Conference 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina features and outstanding lineup of talks and lecturers, including the return of some of our favorite lecturers.
- C. Bradley Thompson: The Abolitionist Movement and Its Lessons for Today
- John Allison: The Leadership Crisis and the Free-Market Cure
- Andrew Bernstein: Objectivism versus Kantianism in The Fountainhead and Black Innovators and Entrepreneurs under Capitalism
- Eric Daniels: From “Sputnik” to the Internet: Real Solutions for Reforming Science Education
- Onkar Ghate: “Charlie Hebdo”, the West and the Need to Ridicule Religion
- Peter Schwartz: Defining Basic Moral Concepts and Principles and Anti-Principles in Ethics (advanced talk)
- George Selgin:Money Under Laissez-Faire andThe Destabilizing Consequences of Central Banking
- Amesh Adalja: Infectious Diseases and National Security
- Rituparna Basu: Understanding the Arguments for Universal Health Care
- Michael S. Berliner: How Music Saved a Life: Ayn Rand and Operetta
- John Dennis: Making Decisions in Context
- Ray Girn: LePort Schools Information Session
- Gena Gorlin: Battling Depression and Anxiety: Insights from Moral Philosophy and Clinical Science and The Science of Self-Control: What We Can (and Cannot) Learn from Contemporary Psychologists
- Elan Journo: The Jihadist Movement and The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict
- Ryan Krause: In Defense of Monopolies: How Antitrust Criminalizes Business Strategy
- Andrew Lewis: Magna Carta and Its 800-Year Legacy
- Keith Lockitch:Climate Change and Ideology
- Shoshana Milgram: Moral Self-Defense: How-To Advice from Ayn Rand and Filming “The Fountainhead”: Ayn Rand’s First Plan
- Jean Moroney: Aligning Your Subconscious Values with Your Conscious Convictions and Fueling Achievement with Objectivist Values
- Adam Mossoff: Life, Liberty and Intellectual Property: Why IP Rights Are Fundamental Property Rights
- Gregory Salmieri:Epistemology and Justice in the Age of Social Media
- Thomas Shoebotham:The Legacy of Beethoven,Schumann and Musical Poetry,Chopin, the Bel Canto Pianist,Mendelssohn: Classicizing Romanticism,Berlioz: The Symphony Reimagined, and Liszt and the Virtuoso Tradition
- Steve Simpson: Free Speech Under Siege
- Aaron Smith:Benevolence, Goodwill and the Rationally Selfish Life
- Tara Smith: How Does Objectivity Apply to the Law? and Constitutionalism–the Backbone of Objective Law
- Don Watkins: How to Think about Inequality
and the following panels…
- ARI’s Accomplishments in Its First 30 Years
- Financial Matters
- Life Extension in Our Lifetimes
- Running Topic-Specific Centers
- Admiring Ayn Rand in Hollywood
I am giving 2 lectures at Objectivist Summer Conference 2015 this summer in Charlotte, North Carolina! The conference runs from July 4 through July 9.
One is on “Black Innovators and Entrepreneurs Under Capitalism,” describing the achievements of such producers and great minds as Madame CJ Walker, George Washington Carver, Elijah McCoy, and numerous others. That innovative black American thinkers and entrepreneurs flourished during the freest part of America’s economic history is a little known aspect of our heritage. This talk is a step toward remediating that failing.
My other talk is on “Objectivism Versus Kantianism in The Fountainhead,” showing that the philosophy of Kant permeates and motivates, in differing forms, every villain and foil in the story–Ellsworth Toohey, Peter Keating, Lois Cook, et. al.–while the story’s hero, Howard Roark, is an embodiment of every principle of Rand’s philosophy. Rand versus Kant is not merely the essence of “The Fountainhead”–the 2nd greatest novel ever written–but is the essence of the contemporary struggle for reason and individual rights.
These will be outstanding lectures at a great conference.
Do not miss it. http://www.objectivistconferences.com/
One of the true tragedies is that black politicians, preachers and civil rights advocates give massive support to criminals such as Brown, Garner and Scott. How much support do we see for the overwhelmingly law-abiding members of the black community preyed upon by criminals?
The protest chant that black lives matter appears to mean that black lives matter only if they are taken at the hands of white police officers.